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Hey!  Remember high school?  I’ll admit, I can’t recall many moments worth remembering.  I tend to equate my high school experience to an angsty shitstorm of hormones and rebellion – a brain rapidly cycling through extreme bouts of existential crisis and performance anxiety.  In the time I actually did spend in class, I managed to stockpile quite a large number of doodles, the proudest of the bunch still deface various textbooks of Kitchener-Waterloo Collegiate today.

I also mastered the art of procrastination.

Before high school, interestingly enough, I sought refuge in writing and reading.  But somewhere along the way my ardor turned into a complete aversion of anything text-related.  In part, I think, my displeasure stemmed from the goings-on outside of the classroom, although the pervasive apathy observed inside the classroom was definitely a contributing factor.

The day-to-day Charlie Brown drone of authority hardly resonated with me and while my unconscious mind was inundated with the insistent “do this, not that”, I struggled to find my footing in the world of academic writing.  High school’s mundane, mind-numbing approach left me with little passion for writing, and more specifically, writing essays.

Essentially, what I learned was that the key to a successful essay lies in one’s ability to pump out cookie-cutter paragraphs, while following the dreaded “hamburger” methodology, and to void the piece of any sense of artistic freedom: read the novel, play, what-have-you, pull out three quotes for each one of three supporting paragraphs, and stick them between an opening and concluding paragraph.  While I can understand that these formulas are “tried and true”, I found them to be quite frustrating in practice as their limitations hindered my ability to produce anything I was proud of.  I call this the “writing box”.

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I’m not a cat; I don’t enjoy time in boxes.


The writing box stifled my budding individualism; it enforced conformity in a time where I had just begun to unearth my voice.  In the past I had quite readily expressed myself through my writing.  I had always proved more articulate through text without social anxiety whispering nothings into my ear.  In high school, I was brimming with ideas, but was denied any fluidity.  I became detached; I went through the motions, I wrote the essays, but I couldn’t have cared less about the process.

Nothing I wrote spoke to any of my values, nor captivated conviction; nothing really amounted to much more than a bunch of words on paper.  This thoughtless sputter of facts left me disdainful and brutally uninspired. I’ve always longed for something more.

Which brings me to university writing.

What? I have the freedom to write about whatever I want to write about, however I want to write about it?

No, not yet. But at least there’s a little more elbow room in the box.

I can’t just set out on a writing warpath of unrelenting passionate fury; academic writing requires a little more finesse, but I’m afforded another opportunity to find and strengthen my voice.

While I realize some core elements of academic writing will forever remain stagnant, my impression of the ideal (and I do emphasize ideal; this isn’t the wardrobe to Narnia here, stepping through the university doors doesn’t transport you into some mythical land of writing wonder and enchantment) university-level writing forever beckons “more”.

I hope to be expected to consider limits and objections in my writing, to really intellectualize claims. I’ll always anticipate challenge and be armed with answers for refutations.

University writing is less regurgitation (although still prevalent and of merit under circumstance) and more projectile word-vomiting all over your colleagues in the pursuit of knowledge and understanding.  Gone are the long nights of suffering isolation in the depths of my mother’s musty basement (okay, maybe not, but less so often, and it’s my basement now) for now we suffer in collaboration.  Writing workshops afford us the ability to empathize our shared clueless wander into the unknown world of language.

But in all seriousness, I’m pretty jazzed about starting this new adventure with my classmates. I view this experience as a stepping stone into the future, and ultimately a catalyst for lasting change.  There are so many opportunities to explore ourselves and our interests; there are so many different things to immerse ourselves within.

I’m excited to start formulating new opinions about the world, to share my innate passion for writing (hopefully allowing more room for some of that elusive artistic freedom), and to learn how to communicate these feelings to others in insightful, meaningful ways – in ways that will be respected, in ways that matter, and in ways that might make me proud.

I’m interested to see just how far I can push the boundaries of my writing box without it collapsing back onto me.

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